HC Deb 06 June 1861 vol 163 cc685-6

wished to call the attention of the House to the improvidence of using timber which had been already cut, in the construction of the frames of iron ships. These timbers had been cut for ships with "rising floors," and it was not yet settled what was the best form for iron ships. He objected to iron ships being constructed until the previous question as to their form was settled. He intended at the proper time to move that no contract for iron-clad vessels be entered on, by converting timber ships or otherwise, until the form best calculated for efficient men-of-war be decided on by a committee of men of science and men of practical knowledge. He objected to any "reconstruction" of the navy until this preliminary question were settled, for otherwise great and useless expense would be incurred. The reason for using those timbers already cut seemed to be to keep out of the Estimates for the present every item of expense possible; but it would be the height of folly for the purpose of keeping the expenses of this iron fleet out of the current expenses of the year to run the risk of having to reconstruct our navy.


thought that it deserved consideration whether the application of these already-cut timbers to iron ships would not result in a complete failure, and the House should also consider whether the object in keeping out of the present Estimates every possible item of expense was not, by keeping down the Estimates, to bolster up an unfortunate Budget. He should, be glad to have an assurance from the Government that the real intention was not to make the figures meet, and to throw dust in the eyes of the House as to the likelihood of an augmentation of the Navy Estimates being needed.


thought, that the Admiralty were placed in very great difficulty in the matter. One set of Gentlemen called on them to get up as rapidly as possible a fleet of iron-cased ships, and another blamed them for endeavouring to make the best of the resources at their command. They could not prepare such a fleet as seemed to be necessary immediately if they did not cut down some of their three-deckers. While on this subject he would beg permission to remind the House that they were at the present moment in perfect ignorance as to whether the Warrior would or would not be able to resist the description of shot to which she would be exposed in the event of being engaged with an enemy's ship armed with rifled cannon. Some officers of great experience were of opinion that she would not. He thought the questions of thickness of the iron-casing; of the midship section of the ship which would regulate the general shape; and of the power of resistance of the bow and stern to heavy shot should be determined as soon as possible.


in explanation said, that in constructing the five iron-ships it was intended, whilst using the already cut timbers, to lengthen the vessels twenty feet amidships, so that they would get rather flatter floors and great additional displacement, in order to enable them to carry their armour and their guns. With regard to the question of cutting down line-of-battle ships, a measure which probably ere long will have to be undertaken with a view to casing them with iron, it must always be remembered that their displacement, particularly the smaller ones, is not sufficient to enable them to bear the weight of a very powerful armament, and that they will only be available for coast defences, with very light masts and small stowage of provisions.

Motion agreed to.